Placenta previa is a condition that occurs when the baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix.
It occurs in about 1 out of every 200 pregnancies, according to the March of Dimes. If placenta previa occurs early in the pregnancy, it will often resolve itself; however, it can result in severe complications if it occurs later in the pregnancy. Placenta previa during labor and delivery can put mother and baby at risk.
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Placenta previa has three types, according to the American Pregnancy Association:
What causes placenta previa?
Placenta Previa Symptoms
How is placenta previa diagnosed?
What is the treatment for placenta previa?
What are the possible complications?
The mother may experience severe bleeding during the pregnancy. In this case, the doctor may have to schedule an emergency Cesarean delivery before 34 weeks of pregnancy. The premature baby is at greater risk for breathing issues and birth injuries such as cerebral palsy and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
Life-threatening bleeding can occur during labor, delivery, and post-delivery. Postpartum hemorrhages cause 12 percent of maternal deaths in the United States, according to American Family Physician. Doctors often prescribe medication or transfusions to treat hemorrhages.
Placenta previa increases the risk of placenta accreta. Placenta accreta occurs when the placenta grows into the uterine wall. Instead of detaching from the uterine wall after childbirth, all or part of the placenta remains attached.
Placenta accreta also can cause severe blood loss. To control this severe bleeding, the patient might require a hysterectomy — full removal of the uterus. Placenta accreta can also require preterm delivery, leading to complications such as fetal hypoxia, another effect of oxygen deprivation. Fetal hypoxia can result in significant issues of brain and neurological function, according to Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta “partly or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery,” according to the Mayo Clinic. It also can decrease or block the baby’s supply of oxygen and cause heavy bleeding for the mother. Placental abruption is more likely in cases of placenta previa.